Butler University funds ambitious projects and proclaims goals of becoming an environmentally responsible campus.
But the day-to-day decisions and functions of the university seem to contradict these efforts. Many campus buildings light up the sky every night, all night—even though most of them close at 10 p.m.
But even if it were not good for the university’s publicity, or even popular, Butler has a responsibility to its community and environment.
The university prides itself on giving students a well-rounded experience that’s not just focused on getting the job after graduation but on preparing thoughtful, passionate human beings to change the world for the better. Butler encourages responsible consumerism as part of its liberal arts philosophy.
And they’ve made real progress in some fields.
The PrintSmart system forces students to think about their paper consumption.
Department of Operations wants to upgrade the heating systems on campus to be more energy efficient.
But again, the problem is not Butler’s philosophy but its execution. At some point in between the ideology of energy conservation and other needs—like students using study spaces in Jordan Hall until 4 a.m.—the university struggles to find balance.
The real issue here, though, is not the lights themselves but the principle of the matter. Butler spends money on green projects—a virtuous pursuit if ever there was one. But then the university functions in ways that seem to completely contradict their stated goals.
In a way, it would be easier to tolerate if Butler simply didn’t attempt to be “green.”
Take the campus farm as another example. It is often mentioned as part of Butler’s vibrant efforts to change how cities are viewed in general, and how campus can be more progressive. Yet it is difficult to find, and there is very little on campus to direct more attention to it.
The university likely does support urban ecology and greener, healthier cities. But you’d never know if you didn’t read pamphlets and press releases.
Butler’s administration does not do this on purpose; there is no conspiracy. The leaders of this university have to juggle dozens of priorities. Butler is a business, a community, an educational institution and a model for forward thinking.
Bulldogs should live out these ideals, whether they are faculty, staff or students.
Gerald Carlson, vice president of operations, said he believes that environmentally responsible changes must be student driven.
To an extent, he’s right. Without students demanding better conditions, the university is not likely to change.
Personal responsibility is important but becomes almost meaningless in a community of 4,000. Students should organize and advocate for causes that matter.
However, from beginning to end, the administration has the power and responsibility to make the larger moral decisions.
The university already makes decisions all the time based not on profit but morality. Advocates of liberal arts education argue that college should be more than formalized job training and should enrich students’ lives.
Sometimes, that means taking stands before students advocate them.
Accountability starts small, though. So get the lights on your way out.